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Snowflake GPs? It’s what the NHS asks for



It’s a well-known fact that Eskimos have 100 different words for ’snow’.

We could have done with one of them the other day when we were all having our post-surgery caffeinated catharsis. One of my colleagues was bemoaning the fact that young GPs seem so much less committed to the cause these days, which might just sound like the irrelevant and dying croak of a sauropod, until you realise that my partners, most being roughly half my age, are in fact of the Millenial, rather than Jurassic period.

So, of course, we spent the next half hour trying to avoid the word ‘snowflake’. A good thing too, because, while it might seem that the youngies simply aren’t prepared to put in their hours in the trenches, the truth is rather more nuanced. Consider, for example, the USPs of general practice as routinely trotted out during any recruitment drive, and God knows there have been a few. Such as:

  • It offers flexibility and is therefore a good fit for those with family commitments
  • You can pursue other specific clinical interests – for example, by becoming a GP with a special interest
  • It has a better work-life balance than many other medical roles
  • You can construct a portfolio career, developing interests and skills in various areas as diverse as research, leadership and sports medicine
  • There are more part-time options than in hospital posts
  • Out-of-hours and weekends are optional

Come to general practice because it’s probably the best job there is, not because it’s something you can dabble in while fannying around with other projects

And so on. All of which could be paraphrased by saying that the really great thing about general practice is that you can spend lots of time not actually doing it. And the implication of this is that the core job must be awful to make you want to escape it so much.

So we make lack of commitment part of the appeal, and then spend much time wringing our hands over why new recruits seem less committed.

Now, I know this is going to sound rich coming from me. But the truth is, I love this job. No, really. This is not a stroke/lobotomy/psychosis talking. I wouldn’t do anything else.

True, there are lots of epiphenomena that conspire to ruin most days (micromanagement, scrutiny, bureaucracy, appraisal, revalidation, paperwork, hospital dysfunction, NHS 111, CQC, reorganisations, patients etc). The job itself, though, is brilliant. I have worked in a factory, as a window cleaner, and as a GP. It’s definitely the best of the lot. It’s intellectually challenging, always interesting and pretty well paid.

Seriously, what would you rather do? There’s nothing outside of medicine that would come close. And even inside medicine, it thrashes all the opposition (although compared with working in a pain clinic or A&E, that’s hardly a contest).

This is what we should be selling to potential recruits. Come to general practice because it’s probably the best job there is, not because it’s something you can dabble in while fannying around with other projects.

So let’s get that message right. And I’ll do my bit by trying not to bitch about all the negatives, even if I have just had a shitty day, which I have, actually. Otherwise, we shouldn’t really be surprised that our cherished vocation, like snowflakes in the sun, is simply melting away.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield or follow him on Twitter @doccopperfield